Friday, 5 February 2016

"Crime Of The Century" by SUPERTRAMP (2014 Universal/A&M '40th Anniversary' 2CD DELUXE EDITION – Ray Staff Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Nobody's Fool..."

Last time I played Supertramp's 1974 breakthrough album "Crime Of The Century" - it was the Greg Calbi Remaster of 2002 – and along with his stunning transfer of "Breakfast In America" in 2010 – I thought I'd heard all I needed to hear.

But the big draw in 2014 for Tramp fans will be a double-dip - Remaster Engineer of the moment RAY STAFF - and a decent-sounding concert of near eighty-minutes from that most productive of times for this most British of bands. 

Staff handled the 2013 Remaster of Bowie's 1973 LP "Aladdin Sane" and the stunning 2015 "Five Years: 1969 to 1973" 12CD Box Set - both to huge critical acclaim – bringing life and new warmth to a catalogue that's been done to death over the years. In fact Staff's name (like Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree) has become synonymous with care – less flash and more subtlety - dig out those nuances and let them breathe. And for this 40th Anniversary 2CD DELUXE EDITION of Supertramp's 1974 audiophile masterpiece "Crime Of The Century" – that’s pretty much what you get. Let’s get behind the bars of this wickedly good reissue...

UK and US released December 2014 – "Crime Of The Century: Deluxe Edition" by SUPERTRAMP on Universal/A&M Records 0600753307885 (Barcode is the same) is a '40th Anniversary' 2CD Remaster and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (44:20 minutes):
1. School [Lead Vocals Roger Hodgson and Richard Davies]
2. Bloody Well Right [Lead Vocals Richard Davies]
3. Hide In Your Shell [Lead Vocals Roger Hodgson]
4. Asylum [Lead Vocals Richard Davies]
5. Dreamer [Lead Vocals Roger Hodgson] - Side 2
6. Rudy [Lead Vocals Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson]
7. If Everyone Was Listening [Lead Vocals Roger Hodgson]
8. Crime Of The Century [Lead Vocals Richard Davies]

Tracks 1 to 8 are their 3rd album "Crime Of The Century" – released September 1974 in the UK on A&M Records AMLS 68258 and November 1974 in the USA on A&M SP 3647. Roger Hodgson and Richard Davies wrote all the songs with Strings arranged by Richard Hewson. KEN SCOTT and JOHN JANSEN engineered the album with KEN SCOTT producing in conjunction with the band. "Crime Of The Century" peaked at No. 4 in the UK album charts (November 1974) and No. 38 in the US (December 1974).

Disc 2 – "Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, March 9th 1975" (73:58 minutes):
1. School
2. Bloody Well Right
3. Hide In Your Shell
4. Asylum
5. Sister Moonshine
6. Just A Normal Day
7. Another Man's Woman
8. Lady
9. A – You're Adorable
10. Dreamer
11. Rudy
12. If Everyone Was Listening
13. Crime Of The Century

ROGER HODGSON – Vocals, Guitars, Pianos
RICHARD DAVIES – Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonics
JOHN ANTHONY HELLIWELL – Saxophones, Clarinets, Vocals
BOB C. BENBERG – Drums, Percussion

The glossy gatefold digipak folds out to reveal those familiar snaps of our boys standing naked with their top-hat and tails in hand – staring upwards at the stars in the sky. It’s also nice to see that the lyric insert that came with originals of the LP is fully reproduced in the booklet – including its  'who sings lead on what track' colour-coded typeface. The 24-page booklet also has genuinely enlightening liner notes from PHIL ALEXANDER (Editor in Chief with The MOJO Magazine) along with period photos of the band, promo items relating to the LP, a rare tour program with Procol Harum and even a January 1974 internal letter from Gil Friersen cautiously optimistic that with the new material – A&M Records might even have a new Led Zeppelin or ELP on their hands.

The new 2014 RAY STAFF/WYNE DAVIES Remaster was done at Air Studios - while the near-audiophile sounding live gig from 1975 was mixed from original tapes by the album's original producer KEN SCOTT. The results are far more measured – almost underwhelming at first. There’s a subtlety to the rhythm section – the bass and drums not as bombastic – yet when the keyboards do kick in – you feel it – very tasteful. Let's get to the music...

Famously taking six months to record in three different studios – and after two failed attempts at capturing the public's affection with "Supertramp" and "Indelibly Stamped" in 1970 and 1971 – it seems all were on board to deliver a third album that would astound and finally realise the band's obvious potential. And they did. UK released in September 1974 - momentum saw the LP finally peak at No. 4 in November with the 7" single "Dreamer" making it to No. 13 the following month (AMS 7152 featured "Bloody Well Right" on the flip-side). Released in February 1975 - the American 45 of "Dreamer" (their first hit Stateside) was even given a picture sleeve (the album cover) - peaking at No. 35 in May of that year on the Pop Charts. The album made No. 38 Stateside in December 1974 but continued to sell steadily into early 1975 due to the single's exposure and positive press...

Even as "School" fades in with that lonesome harmonica wail – you can hear the clarity and when it finally punches in proper after the "...he's coming along..." lyric – the wallop is fantastic. The bass and bottom end is warm and defined – and those brilliant breaks – the guitar solo before the huge piano solo at 3:16 minutes is masterful stuff. After the shared vocals on "School" - Richard Davies takes the lead vocal solo on the caustic and terribly school-British "Bloody Well Right". Fun for sure but I suspect many fans will bypass that for one of the LP's true nuggets "Hide In Your Shell" – 6:47 minutes of pure Supertramp. "...Don't let the tears linger on the inside now..." - the hurting singer pleads – trying to hide internal doubt and pain from a world that doesn't understand its nature. More ambitious mini-opera comes with "Asylum" – those piano notes so beautifully clear. But for me it's always been "Rudy" on Side 2 that puts the album into superstar class. The musical changes – the clever instrumental arrangements – the melodramatic duelling voices half way in – and that sly train announcement from Paddington Station that mentions Redding, Didcot and Swindon – the last two being Richard and Roger's home towns at the time. And of course the wicked piano hook in the final track "Crime Of The Century" – accomplished and undeniable...

The March 1975 live gig features 1974's "Crime Of The Century" in its entirety and a smattering of new tracks from what would have been their 4th album to be released in November of that year - "Crisis? What Crisis?" Despite the near audiophile clarity (they set out to be this way) – I have to admit that I find much of the gig strangely lifeless. The work-in-progress version of "Sister Moonshine" hadn’t as yet featured all those big 12-string guitars at its centre – so it's good rather than being great. The live version however of "Rudy" is mightily impressive as is "Just A Normal Day" and the crowd are loving the whole of Crime's Side 2 finishing the concert is exact chronological order. I've been replaying it these last few days - so maybe it's growing on me...

"Crisis? What Crisis" in 1975 and "Even In The Quietest Moments" in 1977 would cement Supertramp’s grown-up adult Rock rep during the harsh Punk years – only to have the last laugh in 1979 with their mega crossover album "Breakfast In America" - which indeed conquered that continent big time where so many bands before them had tried and failed to do so. 

But it all started here...and this 2014 DE of Supertramp's "Crime Of The Century" (priced at under £8 on Amazon in 2016) is where you should start too...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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